The Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The deal, which was first reported as close by CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, also includes $750K in incentives, according to Rojas.
Cruz, who was originally seeking a high-value, multi-year deal on the free agent market, saw his value hurt tremendously by the attachment of draft pick compensation after he turned down the Rangers' $14.1 million qualifying offer in November. He was said to be in serious discussions with the Mariners in recent weeks, but sources have indicated that the two sides put talks on hold once they could not come to agreement on his price. The Rangers also expressed some interest in re-signing him for the right price, but he ultimately fell to the Orioles on what seems to be a bargain deal.
After signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50MM contract early in the week, Baltimore continued being aggressive on the free agent market, focusing on Cruz and fellow slugger Kendrys Morales while keeping in contact with right-hander Ervin Santana. MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko said last night that the team was divided on which hitter to add, but they decided quickly and came to terms with Cruz this morning. The O's will have to surrender the #52 overall pick just days after giving up the 17th overall pick in order to sign Jimenez.
With Cruz and Jimenez off the board, three top free agents who declined qualifying offers are left unsigned: Santana, Morales, and shortstop Stephen Drew. Those three are expected to sign within the next couple of weeks.
Cruz will likely split time at designated hitter and left field for the Orioles, who brought in a ton of depth options for their outfield this offseason. With Nick Markakis locked into right field for the O's, Nolan Reimold is the leading candidate to see the most time in left field while Cruz is used as the designated hitter.
In 109 games in a suspension-shortened 2013 season, Cruz hit .266 with 27 HR and 76 RBI for the Rangers in the second All-Star campaign of his career. In nine major league seasons with the Brewers (2005) and Rangers (2006-2013), Cruz is a lifetime .268 hitter with 157 HR and 489 RBI.